Germany to deploy 1,200 troops in fight against ISIS

Soldiers holding their weapons during a German army, the Bundeswehr, training and information day in Munster, Germany on Oct 9, 2015.
Soldiers holding their weapons during a German army, the Bundeswehr, training and information day in Munster, Germany on Oct 9, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN • Germany is planning to deploy 1,200 troops to help France in the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants, its army chief said yesterday, in what would be the military's biggest deployment abroad.

But in Britain, Defence Minister Michael Fallon said the government has yet to drum up the support it needs to win approval for launching air strikes against ISIS, which claimed responsibility for killing 130 people in Paris earlier this month.

German army chief of staff Volker Wieker said: "From a military point of view, around 1,200 soldiers would be necessary to run the planes and ship."

He told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that the mission would begin "very quickly once a mandate is obtained". "The government is seeking a mandate this year," he said.

Berlin last Thursday offered France Tornado reconnaissance jets, a naval frigate, aerial refuelling and satellite images in the fight against ISIS.

Between four and six Tornados would be deployed to deliver images of the ground, even in poor weather and during the night, General Wieker said.

Asked why Germany had shied away from participating in direct air strikes, Gen Wieker said the coalition already had "sufficient forces and means" dealing with that aspect of the battle.

"What is needed is reconnaissance on the ground, so that these forces can be deployed effectively. Our Tornados can contribute a lot in that area," he said.

Talks are ongoing with the host nations on stationing the planes in Incirlik, Turkey, which also serves as a base for United States jets, as well as in Amman, Jordan.

Gen Wieker dismissed criticisms that Germany had opted for "the least dangerous" tasks, saying: "This allegation is not justified. What is the difference when you fly a bomber jet or a reconnaissance plane over the same area? The levels of threat and danger are the same."

Post-war Germany has been traditionally reluctant to send troops abroad, although it has joined United Nations-mandated missions in the Balkans and elsewhere, and the Nato coalition in Afghanistan.

In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron has said it is time to join the air strikes against ISIS. But several lawmakers from his own Conservative Party and some in the opposition Labour Party remain wary.

Asked whether the government had the votes needed to get parliamentary approval for the air strikes, Mr Fallon said yesterday: "Not yet. We are working at it and we need to keep working at it because there are lots of questions about this."

The media reported that the vote could be held on Wednesday, but Mr Cameron said he will not ask Parliament until he can count on its approval, to avoid a repeat of the damaging defeat in 2013 over strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

Mr Fallon said opinion "was beginning to shift" over the action. Some Members of Parliament who were reluctant to launch further military action in the Middle East now feel it is needed to protect Britain from attacks like the ones staged in Paris.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2015, with the headline 'Germany to deploy 1,200 troops in fight against ISIS'. Print Edition | Subscribe